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Cape Leopard Trust visits the Helderberg Eco-Rangers

On Friday 2nd August 2013 the Eco-Rangers were privileged to have Anita Meyer from The Cape Leopard Trust (CLT) visit. Anita spent time with the children explaining many interesting facts and findings about our Cape Leopard.

A Cape Leopard

A Cape Leopard captured on the Wedderwille camera.

The majority of the discussion involved showing how a Cuddeback camera is set up in the veld and how this tool is able to help in researching these stunning cats day and night. Having cameras set up in conspicuous places has been invaluable when it comes to monitoring movements and identification of leopards as well as other creatures including porcupine, duiker, rabbit, weasel, curious baboons and in some cases the hikers passing by.
The Cuddeback camera

Showing the Cuddeback camera to the children

The Eco-Rangers (under supervision) are currently involved in monitoring the cameras placed in the Wedderville game reserve. In the future we would like to purchase and place a camera in the Helderberg Nature Reserve which the Eco-Rangers will be able to monitor. This will be an exciting development for the group offering children hands on involvement. Projects such as these are excellent for children to work on as they are educational in nature, give the children a sense of being a part of something meaningful adding purpose to their lives and it plants the seed for them to become future caretakers of creatures such as the leopard.

In short the children were shown how to identify the leopard by looking at their spots. Leopard spots are much like the whirls on our fingers – each unique and easily identifiable. They were also shown how a leopard is darted in order to have a GPS unit fitted in the way of a collar. The GPS collar allows monitoring of movement and thus researchers can see the distances the cats cover. The Cape leopard covers a much larger area compared to that of the Leopard in the Kruger national park. The male Cape Leopard will cover distances of between 200km2 and 1000km2 while the Leopard in Kruger covers an area of 25km2 – 50km2. The female cape Leopard has an area of 80km2 – 180km2. The Kruger female only covers between 10km2 and 25km2. Apart from such differences in area covered, the Cape Leopard is much smaller. The male cape Leopard weighs roughly 30kgs versus 60kgs which a Leopard in the Kruger will weigh. While the cats are sedated during the fitting of the collar, researchers will check weight, teeth, growth and of course they look out for any injuries etc. The children were shown how one can tell the age of Leopard by simply taking a look at the teeth. Young leopard have nice, white teeth and healthy gums. As a leopard ages, the teeth become dull and develop a slight stain. The older the leopard is, the darker the teeth will appear. Very old Leopards may have broken or missing teeth. Of course the children were also shown the Leopard habitats and they discussed the diet and prey amongst other things.

Following the presentation with Anita, the Genet group had loads of fun making their very own leopards.

Hardworking Genets

The Genet group working hard

The Caracals and Leopards were given a quick exercise to work on regarding Leopards and all they had just learned. During this exercise, Andreas showed the children the different types of big cats that exist. They discussed where they were previously found and where they are currently found; and in which habitat they live. To end off the discussion, the children were asked to sit quietly so as to hear what sound or roar is made by each of the big cats. This was enjoyed by everyone. The children then spent time sketching the different big cats and filled in where they exist and which habitat they prefer. Meanwhile, Anita was outdoors with the other groups setting up a camera with the children so as to allow to them to see how it works. Many of the children enjoyed pretending to be leopards striding passed the camera. Later they were able check the camera and see themselves on the computer.

All in all this was an informative, fun filled afternoon. We are sure the children and parents learned a great deal about the beautiful cats we are so lucky to have living in our region. The Eco-Rangers are excited to be a part of a project such as this and we look forward to working with the Leopard Trust and installed cameras to monitor these cats. Anyone wanting to sponsor or donate funds for a camera can contact Claudia or Andreas.

For more photos you can look at the Helderberg Facebook page.

To learn more about the Leopard Trust . . . please look here:

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